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  • Writer's pictureStacey Martin

SETTING A HOLIDAY TABLE LIKE A STYLIST // 6 Tips to Make Your Tablescape Magazine Worthy

Updated: Dec 14, 2020


Good design won't save the world, but it damn sure makes it look good!

I believe that good design has to power to influence how you feel about, and experience, the world around you. Think about the last time you went to a gorgeous, well-designed restaurant or hotel. Wasn't the whole experience, including the taste of the food, just, well, better? The same can be said for the holiday table. Sure, it may be just a handful of you and yours around the ol' yule log this year, but that doesn't mean it should feel, or look, any less special. In fact, maybe this year is the best year to style your prettiest holiday table yet.

I'm sure many of you have set a pretty holiday table before, but today we're talking about 6 ways to take your holiday table, and the entire dining experience, to the next level. As I like to say, don't just celebrate, elevate!

Tip #1 - Choose a cohesive color palette with an unexpected twist.

Red and green aren’t the only colors that say “holiday”. In fact, incorporating unexpected colors will make your tablescape feel more interesting. Here, icy blues, dark plums, and maroons mingle with whites and creams, for a lovely winter palette that still feels fancy.

What colors come to mind when you think about the season or holiday? As long as you pull the colors from your palette into the various elements on the table, anything goes. The dark purples in the flowers above are mirrored in the floral pattern on the napkin, and the creams from the petals are reflected in the candles. The key to making it all feel pulled together is to have a common thread (or threads) woven throughout your tablescape.

Going for a more sophisticated look? Highlighting the darker colors in your palette will make things feel a bit more fancy. Think black tie event vs Sunday brunch.

Tip #2 - Mix in vintage and antique finds (bonus points if it came from grandma).

Heirloom items add personal connection and warmth to a space, since they were once used (and loved) by another. They can also be a great way to add elements that are meaningful to you, especially at a holiday meal.

Don't worry if you don't have a complete set! Part of the charm of vintage items is that they can be mixed and matched for a more "collected" feel. Just be sure to use some cohesive elements throughout, like matching plates, napkins, or glassware. This will ensure that the table still feels modern and pulled together, vs busy and mismatched.

Vintage items are also great conversation pieces! Whether it's swanky champagne glasses from the 1950s (that's what's on my table!) or Nanna's bone china plates, talking about where the items came from, how cool they are, or their connection to you makes for a fun and lively chat.

Tip #3 - Go Organic

If rustic-modern style is your thing, this look is your jam. I'm more scandi-boho-rockn'roll myself, but the Vermonter in me loves the organic vibe. Each year I begin my holiday decorating by grabbing my antique apple basket and wandering into the woods, searching for natural treasures to bring home. The whole experience allows me to connect with nature and enjoy the changing of the seasons.

Bringing the outdoors in is a great way to add unique textures and fragrance to your tablescape. Plus, if you forage for it all in the woods like I do, it is free! All free, baby! And that's the best price, if you ask me!

Whether it is a room or a table, adding plants adds energy and life. But don't limit yourself to just florals and greenery! Natural fabrics and materials - raw linen, organic cotton, raw denim - are also great additions to an organic tablescape.

Tip #4 - Be Strategic With Your Centerpiece

Have you ever been to a wedding or event where you had to lean from side to side to see the person across from you? That, my friends, is not ideal. Your centerpieces should neither be too small nor too tall. Too tall means guests can't see (or wink!) at the person opposite them. Too small can feel bitty and underwhelming, and won't serve the intended purpose of making the table feel more formal.

Also, don't forget to integrate the rest of the table with the centerpiece! If your table is long, a garland or series of items down the center feels appropriate. If your table is round, a single but full centerpiece is in order. Whatever your choice, be sure to tuck candles, placards, butter dishes, etc in and around the leaves so that the entire table feels considered.

Tip #5 - Elevate the Experience

Take all those paper napkins and put them in a drawer right this instant. Go on. I'll wait for you. Nothing makes a meal feel more elevated and special than cloth napkins. They don't even need to be actual napkins! Pieces of vintage fabric, handkerchiefs, or even bandannas can all serve as beautiful, interesting cloth napkins. There are so many affordable options at most big box stores these days that there really is no excuse not to go out and grab yourself a set. Or 12.

Another small touch that instantly dresses up a table is something at each place setting. It can be place cards, a sprig of rosemary, or a cinnamon stick, but having an item in the center of each plate does wonders.

Don't forget the candles and music! Dim lighting and soft music are both great ways to make a dining experience feel intimate and elevated.

This is a holiday meal we're talking about, people! Let's make it feel fancier than those other nights when we just eat cereal out of Tupperware containers.

Tip #6 - You Don't Have to Tablecloth. Really!

The only time you really need a tablecloth is when you are putting two tables together, or using a temporary table, like a card table. Other than that, holiday tables no longer need white linen to be fancy. If that is your tradition, however, and you never have a holiday meal without one, then by all means! All I'm saying is that you don't have to tablecloth if you don't want to. If you use all the other tips above, your table will look great. I promise.

Just like the cloth napkins, a tablecloth can be anything that speaks to you - a scarf, a shawl, a scrap piece of fabric. It doesn't even need to cover the entire table! The main goal is to make it personal and meaningful to you and yours.

Last thing to note - If your tablecloth has a print or pattern, let it be the star. Then, pull out the colors of the fabric in your decor items for a more polished look.

I hope this little list has you feeling excited and eager to tackle your holiday table! No matter what this season ends up looking like for you and your family, taking a little extra time to make the meal feel special, and well designed, can enhance your feeling of connection and joy. From all of us at the Freshmaker, we wish you a wonderful winter season and a stylish holiday table! xo

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